/ Journalism

Silly Season: Bureau Chief Sebastian Abbot with AP's 'Big Lie'

Here is another factually incorrect article that uses incorrect information and inappropriate words to twist the story.  The problem is that this is the Associated Press’s ‘Big Story’, and its stories get picked up by other outlets:

AP, Yahoo, English Review, Patheos, Richard Dawkins, Daily Mail, Teknoid, Dawn, CNN, and many others.

Congratulations, Mr. Abbot, you have just created a new version of history.

As it is the media’s silly season, and with due benefit of doubt and apologies to Mr. Abbot, the Pakistan bureau chief of the AP, here are the corrections:

“Pakistan shuns physicist …”

This is Mr. Abbot’s headline.  What does he mean by it?  The Pakistani government? Media? Science students? Or extremists?  He is well-advised to read this fact-checking piece written especially for this purpose: Myth and Reality of Dr. Abdus Salam.  Can you please let us know of higher accolades than this ever awarded to a physicist not named Curie or Einstein?

Unrelated and Inflammatory Picture

This picture (on the right) is highly inflammatory and tangential to the story.  What kind of journalistic principle would allow this to be put in with a headline of “shun”.  This picture shows people burying the dead from a terrorist attack in Lahore.  This particular attack was the Ahmadi community’s place of worship, very similar to other attacks in Lahore on various religious shrines, including Muslim shrines.  That a person awarded a Nobel prize in 1979 belonged to a community that was one of the hundreds of targets of a terrorist campaign in 2010 is a link so tenuous that I challenge Mr. Abott to put this in the right context.  As AP bureau chief, he must be able to.  Is it a co-incidence that almost all the outlets that re-ran your story ommitted this pictu

Here is the bewildering caption, with even an apparent confusion between cities as well:

In this picture taken on May 29, 2010, people from a minority Muslim Ahmadi Community stand guard as others preparing to bury the victims of attack by Islamic militants, in Rabwa, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest from Lahore Pakistan. The first Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Professor Abdus Salam, the country’s greatest scientist, who passed away in 1996, has been disowned by many of Pakistan’s 190 million citizens because he was a member of a minority Muslim sect that has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view Ahmadis as heretics. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

“Name has been Stricken from School Textbooks”

This is the most dangerous lie that has the potential to cause permanent damage.  Which textbooks? History? Politics? or Physics?  And at what school level? Without the proper context and due reference, it cannot be considered journalism.

“Praise . . . faded Decades ago”

It would have been nice if the author had done research.  It is not too late to retract and apologise: Can we please request Mr. Abbot to read the list of honours above and do some investigation into the dates of those events.

“They can be punished with prison and even death”

This is factually incorrect.  As Bureau Chief of Pakistan, I would have expected Mr. Abbot to not confuse Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

“was celebrated more enthusiastically by other nations, including Pakistan’s archenemy, India.”

As I have cited celebrations and honours afforded by Pakistan in 1979, what did India do?  Any comparable example would be most appreciated.

Continuing Wrong Statements

Dr. A. Q. Khan is a national ‘war hero’ in Pakistan and not due to his theoretical contributions to physics that would be comparable to Dr. Salam’s.  Apples and oranges.

While it is a fact that Ahmadis are discriminated against and sometimes targeted by terrorism, Mr. Abbot’s own articles and stories on other issues correctly paint the picture of extremism and terrorism in more factual tones.  The proper context for the sentence “Taliban militants attacked two mosques packed with Ahmadis in Lahore in 2010, killing at least 80 people” is entirely within Mr. Abbot’s knowledge.

Regarding the “tombstone erased”, please view a picture of the tombstone and see how the Urdu and English inscriptions differ.

A few months before his death, Dr. Salam’s 70th birthday was celebrated in Pakistan and his name continues to thrive in Pakistan’s physics and intellectual community.  As bureau chief of Pakistan, the least Mr. Abbot owes his host country is factual, properly sourced and unbiased journalism.